Greek journalists strike over TV license overhaul

Greece’s largest journalists union has called for 24-hour strike against government's plans to overhaul TV licenses

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Archaeological site of the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece on July 26, 2015

The Journalists' Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) announced a 24-hour nationwide strike on Thursday, halting news programs on private and state televisions over government's plans to overhaul television licenses next year.

EISEA declared on its website on Thursday that the strike would start at 6 am local time (0300GMT) on Friday. The strike will result in a blackout of all Greek private and state television channels.

"The ESIEA defends ethical journalistic practices and freedom of expression," the union said in its press release, adding that it will also "defend pension rights and the autonomy of funds."

As well as ESIEA, The Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) and other unions representing journalists in the media sector agreed on partial halting for news programs from Friday to Saturday to protest against a draft bill to be put to vote on Saturday. The bill includes auctions for private TV licenses next year.

The Greek government said it would hold auctions for all private TV licenses next year, implementing stricter financial standards for broadcasters in an attempt to restore transparency in the media sector.

ESIEA said the measures "fail to safeguard the journalistic profession."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ SYRIZA party has promised to clear the media landscape by “oligarchs” who has been operating private TV channels without proper licenses with ingrained interests for the past three decades.

Opposition parties and media unions criticised the government of trying to take whole control of the media which undermines press freedom and pluralism.

Media unions warned that the bill would also pave the way for more mass dismissals in the media sector which has suffered from the six-year debt crisis in Greece.

The announcement came as French President Francois Hollande was paying an official visit to Athens.

On Thursday, Hollande arrived in Athens, calling for Greek authorities to hold talks with its lenders about debt relief.

To meet the demands of its international lenders, the Greek parliament voted in support of a number of measures, such as pension cuts under a third bailout package earlier this month.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the main current objective of the Greek government was to finalise the first review of the country’s bailout before the end of the November in an attempt to finish bank recapitalization by the end of 2015 then start talks on debt restructuring.

The state television and radio broadcaster ERT requested exemption from the strike to cover the second day of Hollande’s visit, according to yet unconfirmed information. Print media, private radio stations and news portals were already exempted.

TRTWorld and agencies